Comparison doesn’t have to be a dirty word. It allows us to see similarities and differences. It allows us to see deficiencies and areas in which we can grow or improve. Comparison doesn’t have to be negative at all, but if we’re not careful, it is possible for us to become captivated with comparison. Where’s the line?
I recently read an article from a few years ago dealing with a rise in Google’s success and how Apple responded to that success. In short, it brought about a knee jerk reaction from Apple that began changing Apple in many ways…some for the worse. Apple began trying to keep up with their competitors’ products and features instead of just focusing on what they already did authentically and uniquely well.
I’m sure Apple is going to be fine, but it’s a dangerous slope when a business, or anything for that matter, becomes so consumed with another rival business that it disrupts their focus, mission and affects its trajectory into the future. This is not just a business problem, it’s a human nature problem and we, as church leaders, fall into this all the time. If we are honest, we will all compare ourselves to someone else at some point in our lives. What is it in our human nature to crave this “grass is greener” mentality and naturally compare ourselves to others? Those in ministry are not immune to this. But is all comparison bad? Where is the line between aspiring or striving for more and contentment with who we are? So let’s take a quick look at how comparison can help us and how it can get us off track.
Help Us: Wouldn’t it be beneficial to compare ourselves to someone like Billy Graham, or possibly from reading a great biography on William Carey or Dietrich Bonhoeffer? I think there are helpful times in our ministries and personal growth where we see people that God has used to do great things and then glean wisdom from those things. I am personally humbled when I read about the prayer lives of people like George Müller or Corrie Ten Boom. God often has used things like this to quicken my heart, remind me what’s essential, and use it in the sanctification process of making me more like him.
I think the same can be said of the ministries we lead. It’s not necessarily unhealthy to do evaluation of where your ministry is and, as God’s conduit, let him use you to help your teams and church strive for excellence in your kingdom work. That’s just good leadership. So before we move on to hurtful comparison, let’s agree that comparison is not always a bad thing, and God can actually use it to teach us a lot.
Where we have to be careful is knowing that we, as sinful, human beings, are on a very slippery slope that can actually work against us rather than continue to help us. So what should we guard ourselves against?
Hurt Us: We begin to cross that line when our comparisons begin to shape our hearts to chase things that God never wired or intended us to be or do. Almost daily I’ll see or receive a video or sound byte from what another church is doing or experiencing. I love this stuff, and have some friends who are truly changing the world in some of these circles. I pray for them and encourage them as much as I can. Sometimes these videos are helpful because they show great levels of creativity that can be duplicated or borrowed to enhance your local church context. But these same videos can also fuel a big green, raging monster inside many ministers. Whether we would admit it or not, envy can begin to creep in. Sometimes it’s with the number of people showing up, or making decisions, or getting baptized. It’s impossible to live in a bubble where you don’t see these things happening in the world, but that envy, even jealousy, has no place in your heart. It actually hurts you and often hinders the very ministries you seek to lead because your heart and attention rest in some place down the road…a future yet unseen. While that description almost sounds like heaven, living in a place you’re not hurts your present context. You live with thoughts and lies that whisper “if I only had more qualified people” or “if we only had better equipment, we could…” and those thoughts are of no benefit to where God has you. Perhaps the real tragedy is you are missing the beauty God is surrounding you with today. When we do that, we are not consciously receiving those gifts and, in turn, responding with our daily gratitude and undeserved appreciation for our Giver. When we realize this, and honestly admit it, we can know we’re probably in an unhealthy place on that spectrum.
A final thought. I want you to dream for a second. If you achieved all of those things you dreamed for, and you “made it” to the sights and sounds of everything, even to the point where you were the church inspiring the world with videos and recordings… is the person that “has arrived” in that moment authentically the person God created you to be? What I’m suggesting is that if you spend your life chasing and wanting to be something or someone else, it’s possible to get there but end up being someone you’re not or were never intended to be.
Who is God shaping you to be? How does he want to use you? What are you chasing? Be the surrendered leader that says I’m chasing Jesus everyday and his design for my life. I’m embracing my today. I’m chasing him in the way I’m leading my teams, my family, and myself.
“Today you are You, that is truer than true.
There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”